I do not think this novel knows everything, but Sheila Heti does know something about how many of us, right now, experience the world, and she has gotten that knowledge down on paper, in a form unlike any other novel I can think of.
David Haglund - New York Times Book Review
How Should a Person Be? teeters between youthful pretension and irony in ways that are as old as Flaubert’s Sentimental Education...but Ms. Heti manages to give Sheila’s struggle a contemporary and particular fee.... How Should a Person Be? reveals a talented young voice of a still inchoate generation.
Kay Hymowitz - Wall Street Journal
A perfect summer read. It is also one of the bravest, strangest, most original novels I’ve read this year…. We care about Sheila’s plight, but the souls in limbo here are, ultimately, our own. With so many references to the world outside of the fiction, this novel demands to know: Can art inform our lives, and tell us how to be?
Christopher Boucher - Boston Globe
Brutally honest and stylistically inventive, cerebral and sexy, this ‘novel from life’ employs a grab bag of literary forms and narrative styles on its search for the truth…meandering and entertaining exploration of the big questions, rousting aesthetic, moral, religious and ethical concerns most novels wouldn’t touch.
Michael David Lukas - San Francisco Chronicle
[Sheila Heti] has an appealing restlessness, a curiosity about new forms, and an attractive freedom from pretentiousness or cant…How Should a Person Be? offers a vital and funny picture of the excitements and longueurs of trying to be a young creator in a free, late-capitalist Western City…This talented writer may well have identified a central dialectic of twenty-first-century postmodern being.
James Wood - The New Yorker
I read this eccentric book in one sitting, amazed, disgusted, intrigued, sometimes titillated I’ll admit to that, but always in awe of this new Toronto writer who seems to be channeling Henry Miller one minute and Joan Didion the next. Heti’s book is pretty ugly fiction, accent on the pretty.
Alan Cheuse - NPR
[A] breakthrough novel...Just as Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps (written at the same age) was an explosive and thrilling rejoinder to the serious, male coming-of-age saga exemplified during her era by Sartre’s The Age of Reason, Heti’s book exuberantly appropriates the same, otherwise tired genre to encompass female experience. How Should a Person Be?’s deft, picaresque construction, which lightly-but-devastatingly parodies the mores of Toronto’s art scene, has more in common with Don Quixote than with Lena Dunham’s HBO series “Girls” or the fatuous blogs and social media it will, due to its use of constructed reality, inevitably be compared with…Like [Kathy] Acker, [Heti] is a brilliant, original thinker and an engaging writer.
Chris Kraus - LA Review of Books
Toronto-based Heti and her real-life friends, including Misha Glouberman with whom she wrote a previous book (Where the Chairs Are Where the People Go, 2011), are central characters in this meandering novel that attempts to erase the line between fact and fiction. Sheila is a recently divorced playwright...attempting to finish a commissioned play.... She spends time with her friend Margaux, an artist who lives with Misha.... For a while, Sheila and Margaux fall into a pattern of heavy partying and druggy debauchery until Margaux pulls away. Sheila worries she's a narcissist, not without good reason perhaps...[and] leaves Toronto for New York, but she's no happier there.... Pretentious navel-gazing without the humor of HBO's Girls, which covers similar terrain.
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